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Apple iCloud, Google Drive and Dropbox probed over 'unfair' T&Cs in Italy

The Google Drive storage application is seen on a portable device in this photo illustration on December 6, 2017. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The Google Drive storage application is seen on a portable device in this photo illustration on December 6, 2017. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Natasha Lomas

Italy's competition authority has opened an investigation into cloud storage services operated by Apple, Dropbox and Google, in response to a number of complaints alleging unfair commercial practices.

In a press release announcing the probe, the AGCM says it's opened six investigations in all. The services of concern are Google's Drive, Apple iCloud and the eponymous Dropbox cloud storage service.

As well as allegations of unfair commercial practices, the regulator said it's looking into complaints of violations of Italy's Consumer Rights Directive.

A further complaint alleges the presence of vexatious clauses in the contract.

We've reached out to the three tech giants for comment.

All three cloud storage services are being investigated over complaints of unfair practices related to the collection of user data for commercial purposes -- such as a lack of proper information or valid consent for such commercial data collection -- per the press release.

Dropbox is also being accused of failing to clearly communicate contractual conditions such as procedures for withdrawing from a contract or exercising a right to reconsider. Access to out-of-court dispute settlement mechanisms is also being looked at by the regulator.

Other contractual conditions probed over concerns of unfairness include clauses with sweeping rights for providers to suspend and interrupt the service; liability exemptions even in the event of loss of documents stored in the user's cloud space; the possibility of unilateral modification of the contractual conditions; and the prevalence of the English version of the contract text over the Italian version.

In recent years the European Commission has made a pan-EU push for social media firms to clarify their T&Cs -- which led to Facebook agreeing to plainer worded T&Cs last year, as well as making some additional tweaks, such as amending its power to unilaterally amend contracts.